Abstract: Research for this paper, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, has been carried out on quality assurance by questionnaire, interview and observation in the affiliates of the National University of Bangladesh (NUB), where 90 percent of the students in higher education are from a less privileged background. It has been noted that, in the affiliates, quality of education is perceived as less important, and findings show that policy makers and legislators ignore this area. Without ensuring a quality education for this large portion of Bangladesh students, national development will remain slow. Quality assurance in the affiliated institutions of the NUB should be of major concern. This paper aims to provide information that policy makers may consider in order to develop the quality of education within the NUB affiliates, and to carry out further research in order to address the problems highlighted herein.
In the past few years, the issue of Quality Assurance in Higher Education has emerged. Quality assurance in education is of concern throughout the world, but its implementation and maintenance is more problematic in developing nations. With the phenomenal growth of higher education institutes in the developing nations at the start of the 21st century, concerns that are centred on quality control, quality assurance, quality assessment and, above all, Total Quality Management (TQM) have become so pertinent that the concept of higher education and quality assurance are bound more tightly than ever. Modern society needs higher education for both extending knowledge and for societal development, but not at the cost of quality, the absence of which is counter-productive. Ever-increasing numbers of students in higher education provoke reflection on the quality that may be achieved in the higher education institutes of any country, developing or otherwise. Bangladesh is a developing nation that experiences a number of constraints (i.e. financial, political, cultural and governmental). These constraints act in a number of ways that result in hindering the development of quality control in education “”.
All types of higher learning institute such as universities (conventional, open), colleges, and institutes experience uncountable limitations which prevent them from functioning effectively “”, “”. However, in recognition of the marked differences between affiliated institutes and colleges that impart higher education, and other public and private teaching universities, the affiliates deserve a special mention. This paper aims to discuss the issue of quality assurance in the affiliated colleges and institutes of the NUB (National University of Bangladesh), a government-financed ‘affiliating university1’.
2 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 Definition of Quality Assurance
Before exploring the distinctive features and status of the NUB affiliates, a definition of quality assurance and its relevance to education would help. In order sustain such an argument I need to refer to the definitions used by agencies such as QAA and HSV, as well as defining what I understand by quality. The new Oxford dictionary defines quality as excellence or a degree of excellence. In this context, quality can be thought of as the ‘best of its kind’, a standard against which similar things may be measured. The problem with the dictionary definition is that one has to go on and debate what is meant by excellence. In the area of higher education, here are those – Boyle and Bowden “” for instance – who believe that debate on the term itself is a waste of time. “Most progressive thinkers,” they say, “and those motivated by positive practical outcomes, have moved on from the endless esoteric debates on conceptions of quality.” Acknowledging that attempting to define quality can drive you mad “” it remains important to try. Boyle and Bowden’s view is that we should simply accept ‘fitness for purpose’ “” as the most workable definition.
But this definition has its own problems because it ignores multiple or competing purposes. Even if the debate about quality cannot be resolved, it is essential to engage in it. Not to do so is to give the field to those who have the power to enforce their purpose. Quality as ‘excellence or goodness’ was the definition preferred by philosophers. ‘Fitness for purpose’, is the definition preferred by business people. It is in the world of business that both the definition ‘fitness for purpose’ and the quality assurance movement had its origins. The definition works well in business because the stated aim of business is straightforward – that of making a profit. The steadier and more long-term the profit making is, the better.
Quality is therefore assured when the processes of production, sales and distribution fit the stated aims of the company – the largest possible long-term profit. Harvey and Green “” also states that, “total quality control implies total involvement by everyone in the organisation to provide customers with reliable products and services that fulfil their needs.” In determining quality assurance procedures, much emphasis is placed on criteria or attributes that maximise profit. Elements such as speed, economy and efficiency tend to take precedence. Another way to describe this concept of quality is ‘value for money’ “”.
However, ‘fitness for purpose’ has now gained such universal acceptance that it is applied today in more complicated contexts than just profit-making businesses – in the universities, for example. Quality assurance agencies in Britain, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Australia make use of it. But ‘fitness for purpose’ begs an important question – whose purpose? In industry the answer is easy: that of the shareholders or owners. But who owns the universities? And what is that purpose? Harvey and Green “”, observed that the purpose of quality control is to make a product ‘error free’.
So if a product is tangible (whether it be a soap or a computer), it is in the best interests of the manufacturer or industry supplier to ensure the result is error free, thus protecting future profits. In order to do so, the management of the factory or industry utilise good quality raw materials, modern tools, machinery and technology. But it is skilled and efficient manpower that plays the most important role in making sure the result is error free. If the product on offer is a service2 (i.e. banking or insurance), the organisation still needs to use modern techniques, technology, and communication processes, adopted by skilled manpower resources, in order to ensure the same need for freedom from errors. Moving to the context of the education, an education provided by a school can be defined as a ‘product’; the school as an industry (the manufacturer).
The school authorities3 are profoundly engaged in ensuring freedom from errors within the education provided. The course curricula can be defined as raw materials, while the schools use up-to-date teaching and evaluation techniques, modern teaching materials (multimedia projectors, audio-video graphics) and have well-stocked libraries, laboratories and support services in order to ensure the education provided is error free.4 The teaching and support staff are the manpower, and they are principally responsible to ensure the education provided is free of errors. In respect of education, Green and Harvey “” defined quality assurance as:
“Those mechanisms and procedures designed to assure the various ‘stakeholders’ in higher education that institutions accord a high priority to implementing polices designed to maintain and enhance institutional effectiveness.” The International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education is of the view that:
“…quality assurance may relate to a programme, an institution or a whole higher education system. In each case quality is all of those attitudes, objects, actions and procedures which, through their existence and use, and together with quality control activities, ensure that appropriate academic standards are assured extends to making the process and standards known to the educational community and public at large “”.”
Within the context of education delivered by affiliates, the ‘organisation’ is the affiliated institutions that work under the guidance of the mother university5. The ‘customers’ are the students, the ‘products’ are the courses and the ‘services’ are the student support services “”. Quality in education may be defined as improving the efficiency of the element in the input and output processes, and preventing the occurrence of problems by providing services that satisfy the learners by meeting their explicit and implicit expectations “”. Quality in education is inextricably linked to teaching and materials, delivery and promotion of the learning process, people and clientele, the learner support system and administration, and the provision of a systematic environment conducive to effective learning transactions for purposeful outcomes, monitoring and evaluation “”.
In education, quality assurance is a complex issue. Education helps to achieve national development by creating/increasing an individual’s productivity and by increasing awareness of social requirements. Whilst human beings may be described as ‘products’, any description cannot possibly encapsulate the manifold characteristics of students or teachers, or their standards and relative attributes. The complex nature of educational institutes and their diverse operation warrants the use of quality assurance mechanisms as an essential component. A significant aspect of quality assurance in within an institute that operates in its own socio-economic and cultural context implies that quality assurance mechanisms borrowed from other contexts may be neither effective nor appropriate.
For this reason, the definition and interpretation of ‘quality’ and ‘quality assurance’ of education programmes varies in any given educational situation depending on the individual, the institution and the social and national context. Quality assurance of higher education overall is of major concern in the third world. Many researchers argue that the institutions are not playing an effective role in the delivery of quality education. Earlier research shows that whilst the political atmosphere and culture that exist are barriers to the provision of quality education, financial constraints also play a part. In this paper, a perception of poor Quality Assurance amongst affiliates of the National University of Bangladesh (NUB) will be explored.
3 METHODOLOGICAL APPROACH
A primarily qualitative approach to the collection of data was carried out throughout the project. This was considered to be the most appropriate approach, given the nature of the quarry and the circumstances of the research, which was limited both in terms of small size of the sample of faculty members and students, and of the time available “”. Triangulation was required to promote the objectivity of the research “”. I tried to be aware of the possible positional power issues that might arise within the research process, where perceived power differences might affect data collection or the way it was analysed.
3.1 Research Techniques and Data
The affiliates of the NUB were selected for the research as they provide access for a large proportion of Bangladesh’s student population, including the underprivileged. The public and private universities have been shown to attract more competent students from the privileged sector (10 percent), and quality is not such a major issue. The data used in this paper was collected through an empirical survey conducted by questionnaire. These questionnaires were pre-tested through a pilot study. Qualitative methods were used that allowed interviewees to express their views in a free and personal way, giving as much prominence as possible to their thematic associations.
3.2 Semi-Structured Interviews by Qualitative Approach
Were Held With: • Key personnel at the Ministry of Education in Bangladesh • Key personnel at the University Grants Commission of Bangladesh • Key personnel at the NUB • Key personnel at public and private higher education universities and institutes • Lecturers at public and private higher education universities and institutes • Social elites with reputations as educators • The guardians of students in both public and private higher education institutes • Students Other data was collected by an empirical data survey6 approach. This approach was considered the most appropriate for people who were easily accessible.
Were Used For: • Lecturers selected at random from public and private higher education universities and institutes • Staff at private universities and higher education institutes, selected at random • Students at private universities and higher education institutes, selected at random • Students facing an admission test to public and private universities and higher education institutes, selected at random. The opportunity to ask relevant questions of the policymakers, legislators and stakeholders was available in an interview session. Non-participatory observation was also deemed important. For this research, a number of official and/or unpublished documents and newspaper articles were studied:7
3.4 Document Reviews
• A draft of the Asaduzzam Commission Report8 • National University Acts 1990 • The NUB’s rules and regulations governing affiliated institutes • Bangladesh Bureau of Educational Information and Statistics – BANBEIS Annual Reports, 1997–2003 (sponsored by UNESCO and organised by the Ministry of Education, Bangladesh) “”, “”, “”, “”, “”, “”, “”. • University Grants Commission Annual Report, 1997–2003. (The Annual Report contains particulars of every university in Bangladesh, whether public or private, and general information such as new development, strategy proposals, etc.) “”, “”, “”,“”, “”, “”, “”. • Students’ Results sheets of public and private universities and higher education institutes • Newspaper articles
Facilities for lectures were observed. The paper will concentrate on the use of data collected from document review and observation. In addition, eight years spent working alongside an affiliate of the NUB allows for some of the arguments to reflect personal observation during that time. Before analysing the findings, it should be noted that this is the first study to be conducted since the establishment of NUB in 1992.
4 FINDINGS ON DISTINCTIVE FEATURES AND STATUS OF THE NUB AFFILIATES
4.1 Academic Programme and Appointment of Faculty
Although the NUB affiliates deliver higher education for two-year degrees; three- or four- year Honours; one year Masters preliminary and one-year Masters final programmes, there are substantial differences between courses taught in the teaching universities and the affiliates. The syllabus followed by the affiliates is prepared by the NUB and as such is same for all, whilst the teaching universities each have their own syllabuses and are very different from each other. Lately, all teaching universities have started four-year Honours courses and one-year Masters courses. In addition, they also enrol students to M.phil and PhD programmes. These are not offered by NUB affiliates. Teaching staff in affiliated government colleges and institutes are appointed by the Government (Public Service Commission), while teaching staff in the non-government (semi-government, self-financing) NUB affiliates are selected by the governing body of the respective colleges and institutes. Although the NUB is government financed, only affiliates operated by public provision are the domain of the public sector. The remaining institutes are financed and administrated by the private sector9.
TABLE 1: NUMBER OF STUDENTS ENROLLED IN THE AFFILIATES OF NUB AND OTHER PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES
|Other Public Universities||67282 (21.5)||67145 (9.84)||70335 (9.83)||77865 (11.36)||80500 (8.97)||83500 (8.36)||82700 (8.36)|
|Total||312872 (100)||682437 (100)||715450 (100)||685717 (100)||897500 (100)||998700 (100)||975900 (100)|
Source: UGC Annual Report, 1997-2003
TABLE 2: GENERAL INFORMATION – NUB AFFILIATES Items 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 No. of Affiliates 844 912 1156 1921 1297 1304 1320 No. of Students 245590 615292 645095 607552 81700 915200 893200 No of Teachers * 22995 30864 30864 32278 32315 32480 No. of Students 241963 253990 233404 289142 302278 410251 395291 Enrolling No. of Students 109124 103128 104153 122466 132550 185321 192810 Passing out (Percentage in (45.09) (40.60) (44.62) (42.35) (43.46) (45.17) (48.78) Parenthesis) Source: BANBIES Annual Reports 1997 to 2003 * Information not available Of the 1,326 NUB-affiliated colleges and institutes, 145 are fully financed by the government and 380 are self-financing institutes. The rest are semi-government based.
4.2 Enrolment and the Teacher
Student Ratio In Bangladesh, the most striking differences between the teaching universities and the NUB affiliates lies in the enrolment of students; the strength of the teaching staff; the number of students ‘passing out’; and the teacher: student ratio in two categories of higher education institutes. It is interesting to note that the affiliates deliver the bulk of higher education in the country. Every year, around 90 percent of students admitted for higher education (Table 1) enrol in one of more than 1300 NUB affiliates, and more than 100,000 students10 pass out (Table 2). It is also worth noting that the number of faculty members in the NUB affiliates is insufficient (see Table 3), and that non-optimal teacher-student ratio exists. Whilst the teacher: student ratio at a public teaching university appeared to be 1:14 on average, the corresponding ratio within the affiliates stood at 1:28 in 2003 (Table 3). In addition it is a poor reflection that, whilst the teacher-student ratio in the public universities is unsatisfactory, it is far worse in the colleges. TABLE 3: TEACHER STUDENT RATIOS IN THE PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES AND NUB AFFILIATES Public University Affiliates to NUB Year No. of No. of Ratio No. of No. of Ratio teachers students teachers students 1997 4015 67282 1:17 * 245590 * 1998 4264 67145 1:16 22995 615292 1:27 1999 4393 70355 1:16 30864 645095 1:21 2000 4608 77865 1:17 30864 607852 1:20 2001 4810 80500 1:17 32278 817000 1:25 2002 5467 83500 1:15 32315 915200 1:28 2003 6101 82700 1:14 32480 8932000 1:28 Source: UGC Annual Report, 1997-2003 * Information not available TABLE 4: NUMBER OF TEACHERS WITH HIGHER DEGREE AT PUBLIC UNIVERSITY Year Ph.D Other higher Sub-total Total No. of degree teachers 1997 1647 1146 2793 4015 (41.02) (28.54) (69.56) (100) 1998 1709 1227 2936 4264 (40.08) (28.78) (68.86) (100) 1999 1782 1308 3090 4393 (40.56) (29.77) (70.33) (100) 2000 1666 818 2484 4707 (35.39) (17.38) (52.77) (100) 2001 2982 1079 3061 5241 (37.82) (20.59) (58.41) (100) 2002 2103 1292 3395 5467 (38.47) (23.63) (65.10) (100) 2003 2212 1610 3822 6101 (36.26) (26.39) (62.65) (100) Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003
4.3 Teaching Staff
Degrees There is a wide difference between the teaching universities and the NUB affiliates with regard to the higher degrees held by teaching staff. Many of the teaching staff in the NUB-affiliated colleges and institutes have no higher qualification than the Masters required as a minimum in order to become a teacher. Scope for pursuing higher degrees in research is almost zero in Bangladesh; however academics need to conduct research degrees in order to quantify their knowledge and to be confident in their profession. As a result, academics often need to travel abroad in order to pursue their higher education. One interview respondent commented: “Only a handful of teaching staff hold a PhD, M.phil or Masters degree from overseas.” Compared with other public universities, where more than 55 percent of teachers are found to have PhD, M. Phil or other foreign degrees, the NUB affiliates are staffed by less qualified teachers (Tables 4 and 5). Many departments lack a well-qualified faculty member. In this respect, the position of non-government private colleges is far from satisfactory. Faculty members are entrusted with the teaching of degree and Masters courses to the NUB affiliates. TABLE 5: NUMBER OF TEACHERS WITH HIGHER DEGREE AT NUB AFFILIATES Year Ph.D M.Phil Total degree 1982 5 – 5 1983 3 – 3 1984 4 – 4 1985 3 – 3 1986 – – – 1987 5 – 5 1988 6 – – 1989 1 – 1 1990 3 – 3 1991 3 – 3 1992 5 – 5 1993 4 – 4 1994 10 – 10 1995 3 – 3 1996 7 – 7 1997 2 – 2 1998 5 – 5 1999 5 – 5 2000 8 – 8 2001 5 – 5 2002 3 – 3 Total 90 – 90 Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003
4.4 Assessment and Course Curricula
There are some major and conspicuous divergences between the assessment system in place in public teaching universities and that in the NUB affiliates. In both public and private universities, a semester system operates and students are evaluated several times a year. In the affiliated colleges and institutes of the NUB, the degree is awarded on the outcome of a terminal examination held at the end of the third year for Honours degrees, and any attempt at quality control is unattainable. With respect to this, one academic commented: “In the NUB affiliates, the evaluation of students on the basis of tutorial and assignment work is a sheer compliance of formalities rather than a meticulous assessment of their understanding and depth of knowledge. Even tutorial examinations are not regularly held in all affiliates of the NUB. Although, like other public universities, two examiners (one internal and one external) evaluate the scripts of the Honours and Masters examinations, a one-examiner system operates for degrees awarded by the NUB.” It is worth noting that the course curricula followed by NUB affiliates is designed with no consideration given to either the availability or the competence of staff necessary to teach any particular subject. The curriculum is rarely updated whereas, according to interview data, it is claimed that updates happen with comparative frequency at the public and private universities.
4.5 Quality of Inputs
The quality of students in the teaching universities and the NUB affiliates differs greatly. The Grade One student seeking admission to higher education prefers, in general, the public universities, and especially those with a good reputation: Dhaka University, Rajshahi University, BUET, medical colleges, Agricultural University, or Jahangir Nagar. Of the remaining students, those who can afford to pay high tuition fees may seek admission to the private universities. As a result, the quality of input to Honours and Masters courses in the NUB affiliates cannot realistically be compared to that of the universities. The public universities have good reputations, and degrees awarded by the conventional public universities are more readily recognised, therefore students prefer to study with the conventional universities. TABLE 6: COLLEGE TEACHERS TRAINED UNDER SHORT-TERM ORIENTATION PROGRAMME BY THE NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF BANGLADESH Year No. of colleges No. of teachers 1997 191 191 1998 550 613 1999 463 466 2000 396 419 2001 435 398 2002 543 560 2003 402 450 Source: UGC annual report, 1997-2003
4.6 Learning Support Material
Although the NUB affiliates are entrusted with the responsibility of imparting good quality higher education, there is a dearth of books and equipment. The country’s teaching universities do not possess particularly well-stocked libraries, but their position in this respect is very much more satisfactory than that of the NUB affiliates.
4.7 Major Concerns in the Affiliates of NUB
The fact that the NUB affiliates bear the bulk of the responsibility for higher education in Bangladesh has produced a situation with many and multi-faceted problems. The major concerns are highlighted below.
4.8 Teaching and Support Staff
According to one academic: “A major problem created in the affiliates is with regard to teaching staff and support staff development. There is an acute dearth of qualified teachers, as reflected by the non-optimal teacher–student ratio in the affiliates. Moreover, there is an absence of staff development programmes for keeping staff up-to-date. Due to inadequate teaching staff in the various departments of the affiliated institutions, teachers are over-burdened.” Quality teaching from an experienced member of the relevant faculty is rarely available. It is occasionally reported that a significant proportion of Honours and Masters Syllabuses cannot be completed due to teacher shortage.
Students are forced to rely on below-standard notebooks and are prone to start copying when in the examination hall. Copying on a large scale in the examination halls of the NUB-affiliated colleges and institutes is an indicator of lack of knowledge amongst students, and of the low standard and poor quality of the higher education: “Apart form the lack of sufficient teaching staff, the affiliates are devoid of well-qualified teachers. Honours and Masters courses are run by faculty members barely conversant with the latest developments in their respective subject, or with modern techniques used all over the world as well as in the universities of Bangladesh.”
Teachers at the affiliates are invariably unable to travel abroad for further studies due to lack of opportunity. The short-term Orientation Programme, organised by the NUB since 1997, provides scope for only a small number of teachers (Table 6) teaching the Honours and Masters Courses in affiliated colleges. The absence of adequate resources for staff development has resulted in a low overall standard of teaching quality and constrained the ability of faculty members in the NUB affiliates. It is also significant to note that I was frequently unable to meet teachers in the colleges. I visited ten affiliated colleges during the course of my fieldwork. Of the 10, seven were located in rural areas, the others in cosmopolitan cities.
Of the three in cities, two were fully financed by the government and the other operated through semi-government provision. Each of the seven affiliated colleges in rural areas operated through semi-government provision. Speaking to a teacher11 in one of the rural colleges, I enquired after the reason as to why they fail to attend regularly. Her observation is important to note: “The teaching staff who are teaching with the rural colleges do not have enough scope to offer private coaching in order to do increase their income levels. Only those who teach subjects in the science discipline may offer small scale private coaching. Moreover, to be teacher, we have to contribute a large amount of money for the establishment of the college, as government funds are only for the making of a good establishment.
So the rural colleges are established by money, land and assets contributed by the teachers and support staff, along with the help local philanthropists. Teachers of urban colleges have more opportunity to offer private coaching. In these circumstances, rural college teachers are forced to concentrate on their own or families’ business in order to survive.
4.9 Upgrading of Course Curricula
A policy maker commented: “Syllabuses followed in the affiliates are designed by the National University in consideration of areas of study covered by the public universities of the country. They pay no attention to the availability and competence of teachers required for these Honours and Masters Courses. This situation creates enormous problems, with substantial portions of important topics sometimes remaining untouched.” As mentioned previously, this research study has provided information that syllabuses designed by the National University are not updated regularly. This denies the student any knowledge of contemporary change and the opportunity to focus on different subject areas. In its turn, it renders the student non-competitive in the employment market, both at home and abroad.
A principal of a private affiliated college located in the Dhaka city made following observation: “Public universities are not our competitors. We are competing with the private universities, as we provide Bachelor and Masters level education through self-financing provision. Although most of the private universities don’t provide a good education, they do provide a good certificate and transcript to their students, where they show that the students have studied a modern and timely course and curriculum. Students in the private higher education sector are not essentially greedy for a better education, but they and their guardians deserve a certificate with a good grade, and a transcript indicating the modern course studied.
NUB provides us with course curricula that is outdated. As we don’t prepare the course curriculum, it follows that we don’t assess the examination papers of the students; thus we are unable to meet the demands of the students and guardians. This results in us losing our market.”
4.10 Utility Facilities
Another problem faced by the affiliates of NUB is the absence of well-stocked libraries and well-equipped laboratories. There are no libraries in the NUB affiliates enriched with an abundance of appropriate reading material – the textbooks, current journals and periodicals that are widely available to the students of teaching universities elsewhere. Regional comparison would be the most appropriate method of analysis. However, due to lack of sufficient and reliable data based on any previous research in Bangladesh, I have used my observations to illustrate the issue. Three affiliated colleges located in cosmopolitan cities have at least a library room and some stock.
In the rural regions, seven colleges, have no space allocated for a library, consequently no books are kept. However, all colleges in the rural areas have a librarian who receives a salary from government funds. I was unable to meet any of the ‘librarians’ on the college campuses, but I did manage to speak to one when I met him in a local ‘tea store’12. His comment is significant: “When I was offered this job, I had to contribute a significant amount of money for the establishment of the college. I knew that in a college, there is a compulsory position for a librarian. To be a librarian, I needed some form of training, which I have. However, I also came to know from my friends when I undertook the training programme that, although the librarian enjoys a good salary package, he or she does not need to regularly visit the college.
So I thought that this would be a good profession for me as I would able to invest more time in my business, therefore I provided a large amount of money. This job provides me with a good prestigious social life; moreover, I receive a solid income from my job every month.” Even some government colleges with good reputations affiliated with the NUB have no standard books in their libraries. Books of a low notebook type standard are sometimes placed in libraries for use by teachers and students, but these are of very limited use in the context of modern techniques and teaching within rapidly changing departments. The quantity of text and reference books may also be so limited that demand can barely be met.
In addition, the latest journals and periodicals, critical reading for Honours and Masters courses, are unavailable in almost all libraries of the NUB affiliates. An academic observes: “Due to the lack of sufficient reading material, quality teaching in NUB affiliates is seriously hampered: the students are deprived of good source material for their courses on the one hand, and lack internationally-based material, with respect to their future position in the global work market, on the other.” In this age of electronic communication, an Internet connection may be found to be a reasonable substitute if books, journal, and periodicals cannot be made available, but such facilities have yet to be developed in the NUB affiliates. In addition, the laboratories essential for science students are poorly equipped, lacking sufficient quantities of modern apparatus.
Old and obsolete apparatus is retained to fulfil the purpose. The operating laboratories in the affiliates also fail to provide adequate facilities for scientific testing and experiment. It is worth noting that, with the exception of a few public universities, libraries and laboratories of teaching universities also fall short of expectations. Nevertheless, the teaching universities are better equipped than the affiliates in this respect.
4.11 Appraisal and Observation
The NUB affiliates lack proper evaluation and monitoring systems for assuring the quality of higher education. As referred to earlier, tutorials are unlikely to be held regularly due to the shortage of teaching staff in virtually all affiliates offering Honours and Masters courses. The terminal examinations, held after three years for Honours and one year for Masters programmes, fail to cater for the continuous evaluation of students by their very nature. A system that relies entirely on terminal examination for results represents one-shot evaluation, whereby the strengths and weakness of students can barely begin to be assessed. A good student may not perform well in a particular examination, while a student of inferior calibre overall may turn in a surprisingly good performance.
The pattern of examination questions set is so stereotyped and subjective that it has become impossible to assess any originality or depth of knowledge on the students’ part. Apart from the absence of competent evaluation and assessment, monitoring of the current operating system is non-existent in the affiliates. The number of affiliates, and the number of students studying within them, is so large that the NUB finds monitoring their performance unwieldy and unmanageable. In this context, an academic noted: “Due to the absence of monitoring, the performance trend, widely believed to be deteriorating in the colleges over the years, cannot be correctly assessed and reviewed for ensuring future quality assurance.”
An academic working in an affiliated institute of high repute in Dhaka13 city made the following comment: “Students studying with the affiliated institutions of NUB have no need to write assignments. They just appear for examination. They are also provided with a selected short list of questions that will appear in the examination. Answers to the questions will have been prepared by the tutors. Students simply need to memorise the answers to the tutor’s questions: students require greater skill in submitting data to memory than analytical and inventory capacity. The student who can present their tutors’ ideas, having memorised them, is the best student.”
If this is the case in Dhaka, it is easy to envisage the scenario in the rural affiliated colleges. A student studying with the affiliated NUB institutions cannot be nurtured as an innovator, and such circumstances lead to an academic atmosphere without research. Should a student wish to write a paper on the topic related to his or her chosen subject, it helps if ideas can be explored. If students are assigned a specific topic, they need to carry out research in order to include information and data. Tutors can be brought up-to-date with subject content, and with local and international debate surrounding the subject, in order to direct their students. There is scope to provide tutors with sufficient information to moderate the course and course curricula to meet future demand, and also motivate policy-makers to address problems which may be experienced within different sectors.
5.1 Strategy for Quality Assurance
It is unnecessary to state that the problems pervading the affiliated NUB institutions highlighted earlier are faced by many of the country’s teaching universities, but by and large the constraints are particularly prevalent in NUB affiliates because of their prevailing characteristic features. Strategies recommended below may be applicable to the teaching public and private universities, but are particularly relevant to the NUB affiliates.
5.2 Staff Development
A major problem prevailing in the NUB affiliates is that of the absence of sufficiently qualified academics that are competent enough for both Honours and Masters teaching. As indicated earlier, the problem does not appear to be associated solely with the number of teachers available, but also with the number of higher degrees held. One policy-maker made following observation: “It is obligatory on the one hand to increase the number of teaching staff, the shortage of which has plagued the affiliates and, on the other, to develop the existing staff. The regular recruitment of teaching staff on the basis of monitoring the staff position by the National University needs to be ensured. Teachers holding higher degrees and with greater analytical ability should be posted to the Ministry of Education or Education Directorate for the purpose of policy-making and skill development. If current trends continue, the affiliates will continually be deprived of capable teachers, even if large-scale staff development does take place.” A programme of staff development needs to be initiated and structured training of staff, both at home and abroad, should be commenced. The short-term orientation programmes organised by the NUB, being inadequate in number, should be operated more frequently in order to accommodate a larger number of teachers from the affiliates.
5.3 Study Support Services
The issue of reading material and apparatus is concomitant with that of teaching staff and staff development in the affiliates. Only the number of qualified staff may not, on its own, be enough for quality assurance in higher education. Libraries furnished with adequate textbooks, journals and periodicals are of paramount importance for ensuring quality, especially in the NUB affiliates. Enriched libraries supplement the endeavour for quality assurance and perhaps go some way towards compensating for academic loss suffered by the shortage of teaching staff. Old and archaic apparatus used by laboratories within the affiliates also merits attention. Without the laboratories being improved and upgraded, a quality science education in science would appear an ambitious proposition.
The National University of Bangladesh, on the basis of their assessment, may recommend measures to replace, replenish and re-equip all laboratories within its affiliated institutions. Virtually all international study and research material is now published electronically. A technologically up-to-date library that allows access to electronic media needs to be established centrally under the remit of the NUB. Primarily backed by government funding, it should be necessary for each affiliated institute or college to make a regular contribution towards the establishment and upkeep of the said central electronic library. Students and teaching staff alike should be allowed access to the library via the use of secure user names and passwords.
An academic said in interview: “Careful attention should be paid to the selection of an appropriate site for a campus, having sufficient land and buildings for the accommodation of classrooms, academic and co-curricular activities, libraries, seminar halls, auditoriums and laboratories, staff and students’ common rooms, dining hall, etc. In order to implement this strategy, the government of Bangladesh or donor agencies need to offer assistance in the form of finance.” It is obvious that the procurement of sufficient reading material and scientific apparatus cannot be resolved by the affiliates alone, or by the NUB. Much depends on the government’s approval and a financial allocation from the public exchequer. Nevertheless, the NUB does have a role to play. Much will hinge upon how convincingly the affiliates present their budgetary demands before the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance.
As the NUB affiliates operate all over the country, the NUB needs to establish at least one Central Library as well as a number of smaller libraries in separate divisions. 5.4 Creation of Internet Facilities Internet facilities are used all over the world. Such facilities can greatly reduce the number of books and hard copies of journals required to be kept in a library. However, Internet facilities are not currently available in the colleges (and are also unavailable in some teaching universities). It will most likely be time consuming to collect together the reading material required for the affiliated colleges, and electronic devices should be considered as a substitute that will allow access of up-to-date reading material for higher education students.
A central database maintained by the NUB would allow students access to current and relevant material when studying with an affiliate.
5.5 Up-to-Date Syllabuses
Quality assurance in higher education is linked to the regular updating of syllabuses taught within the affiliated colleges. However, once designed and implemented, the NUB affiliate syllabuses are currently used for long periods, with no material changes made in consideration of realities prevailing in the economy. Updating of syllabuses is critical for quality assurance and needs to be carried out in view of market demand and changing social requirements. The situation where a handful of teachers have the higher degrees and expertise whilst their students have lower academic standards needs to be recognised in the design of syllabus and course curricula. In default, the syllabuses will be of little use in the pursuit of quality assurance in the affiliates.
5.6 Initiatives Required for Evaluation and Monitoring System
The system currently used by the affiliates does not conform to standard practice around the rest of the world. in which there should be regular, frequent and continuous evaluation. This is not performed in accordance with set norms in the affiliated colleges. Currently the NUB attempts to maintain quality control by providing the course curriculum and controlling the examination system, However, the tools used are out-dated and not implemented properly. Substantial change is needed to meet the demands of quality control in the 21st century. As noted in earlier findings, a semester system is a far more important tool than terminal examination in ensuring the quality of higher education delivered.
Evaluation needs to be frequent, with students having their performance reviewed throughout each and every year, rather than assessed just once at the end of the terminal year. The revised system of test and examination should be designed to evaluate students’ originality, intelligence and depth of knowledge accurately. The standard evaluation system, as practised widely in reputable universities, may be followed for quality assurance purposes in the NUB affiliates. The monitoring system needs to be introduced as part of a long-term plan.
5.7 Research Facilities
Higher education institutes may gain international renown through their reputation for research and their research capabilities. In addition, a wide range of research may enrich the course content, which in turn may ensure an improved quality of higher education. But the NUB affiliates NUB barely have the scope or the facilities for such pursuits. In order to ensure a higher quality of education in the affiliates, research into a diverse range of topics needs to be embarked upon.
5.8 Prudence in Expanding New Affiliates
The rapid expansion of degree colleges and institutes that lack adequate facilities – the teaching staff, libraries, and laboratories – along with the liberal approval of Honours and Masters awards, has led to a marked deterioration in the quality of education. Although at the time of inspection the college authority presents the requisite number of teachers and a moderately furnished library, the facilities reduce with the passage of time rather than improving. Without proper monitoring, the situation simply continues to deteriorate.
Around 90 percent of students enrolled in higher education institutes study in the NUB affiliates. However, the standard of education they receive in such institutes is very disappointing. Findings show that this situation has developed due to a shortage of qualified staff with substantive academic backgrounds, an absence of well-stocked libraries and laboratories, inappropriate evaluation and management systems and a lack of attention to keeping the curriculum updated in order to keep abreast of change and market demand. It thus transpires that the overwhelming majority of graduates passing out each year from NUB affiliates have been deprived of a good quality education and are entering the employment market as a ‘non-competent’ group. In order to utilise such a large segment of educated manpower fruitfully and effectively, the major thrust of quality assurance needs to be directed towards the affiliates of NUB, notwithstanding the quality assurance of the public and private teaching universities of Bangladesh.
HE: Higher Education
NUB: National University of Bangladesh
QAA: Quality Assurance Agency
TQM: Total Quality Management
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1 In the main, the NUB controls, monitors and evaluates its affiliated institutes and colleges. In addition, the NUB designs courses and curricular for the affiliates, and confers degrees on the students of the affiliates.
2 These days, most are products are has got two entities into themselves. For instance, in the restaurant business, although the main product is the food supplied which is visible but its modern presentation technique motives us to classify it as service product.
3 The term authority used can be varied. For instance, ‘managing committee’ (such GB, Senate and syndicate) may be the authority for a school (i.e. university, institutes and colleges). However, if we see the educational context broadly, the Ministry of Education is the main authority of the state education system. However, Ministry of Education mainly depends on education policy currently practised in order to control and monitor the state education system, so the existing educational policy hence play the most important role as being the main authority.
4 This education is a product shaped from the course curricula
5 Namely, the National University of Bangladesh (NUB)
7 Since no academic research has been conducted, news paper articles and policy/official documents would be secondary source of the data collection
8 Prof Asaduzzam is the chairman of the University Grants Commission, under his supervision, a team was formed to explore the current situations of higher education and to discover more effective ways so that the quality of higher education can be higher
9 ‘Semi-government’ provision receives partial funding from the government
10 In 2003, 192,810 ‘passed out’ from NUB affiliated institutions.
11 She is working in the science discipline. She teaches mathematics
12 In the rural area of Bangladesh, tea is not served in a cafeteria. It has been selling on the street by making a ‘shade’ known as ‘tea store’.
13 Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh, where most of the highly reputed higher learning institutes are located.